How do I protect my daughter's portion of my estate?

1 answer | Last updated: May 09, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

I'm worried about my son taking advantage of my spouse, if i should die first. I'm aware he's waiting for me to die, so he can move in and live rent free. My daughter is concerned her half of the monetary Estate will lose value, until my spouse passes. My son won't be able to afford the house on his own, and my spouse has given him money behind my back for years. How can I protect my daughter's financial interests? She lives out of state, and has her own home.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You can best protect your daughter's interests by being as specific as possible about your wishes and recording them in estate planning documents, such as a trust or will.

While you haven't exactly said so, your situation seems to be a bit complicated by a son you feel is a bit grabby and a bit overcoddled by your wife. Ideally, you and she could attempt to get on the same page about how to treat the children in your estate plan"”and that is especially important if you and your spouse own property, such as your house, in joint tenancy or some other joint form of ownership.

In truth, even if your spouse owns the house solely on her own should you die first, there may be little you can do to stop your son from moving into it if she wants and allows the move.

If your concern remains that his possible living arrangement"”back in the family home"”will somehow cause the home to lose value, which would deplete your daughter's fair share of the home, consider leaving her other, unrelated property that might ultimately make the property division more equitable.

The best solution of all would be an honest conversation in which you, your wife and your daughter and son all got to express their concerns and work out a way to address them if not satisfy them all"”especially since it sounds as if there are already some festering misgivings brewing.

If a family meeting doesn't seem possible, consider writing your family members letters summarizing your thoughts"”and encouraging them to respond. In a surprising number of families, this has helped clear the air before it was too late.